Reed’s Seventh Favorite Film

9 May

The Apostle 1997 Robert Duvall pic 3


What I love most about Robert Duvall’s powerful film about a small-town Pentecostal minister who falls from grace and rediscovers himself in the aftermath is its courage to believably portray a culture of people who had previously been viewed primarily as clownish clichés at best and sinister hypocrites at worst. With Duvall’s film, the Southern charismatic culture (in which I was raised) is given flesh and bone. The quirks and eccentricities of their religious fervor are treated with striking grace and humanity and the film succeeds both as a compelling story of one man’s fall and redemption and as a glimpse into an often misunderstood and ridiculed American sub-culture. Duvall’s performance is mesmerizing and the world he builds for his characters is consistently believable and often quite moving. Yet, it doesn’t make the mistake of baptizing its protagonist in ultimate righteousness either. The apostle of the film’s title is full of violence, lust, and a certain measure of arrogance and pride. Yet, he is also passionate about spreading the gospel and saving the lost, hopefully recovering for others what he seems to have lost for himself. This duality makes the film too human to dismiss, despite its overtly religious dialogue and settings. In it—for the first time as a charismatic Christian—I saw myself and the people I grew up with realistically portrayed and I love the film for that reason chiefly among others.

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